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mondo*arc’s LinkedIn discussion group is open to all and features the latest topics in lighting design and lighting technology. Just search for ‘mondo arc magazine’ in LinkedIn to join.


This month, following Howard Brandston’s plea to the lighting design profession in mondo*arc issue 65, the question is...


Do you agree with Howard Brandston that CFL is not a suitable alternative to GLS?


Paul Beale, Owner, Electrolight, Australia • Howard makes a compelling case for why compact fluorescent lamps are less than ideal for many lighting situations. But I think it’s wrong to single out CFLs as the only alternative to GLS. In Australia, the GLS was effectively banned in 2007. Is every household lit with CFLs? No. So what is being used here? The most obvious replacement for the GLS is a halogen. The full range of clear and frosted halogen versions of the old GLS lamps are available in my local store (these are not ‘specialty’ lamps that have to be ordered from the wholesaler). Typically, a 100W GLS with 1340lm output can be replaced by a 70W halogen with 1240lm without many people being able to spot the difference. The halogen costs a dollar or two more (literally) but lasts twice as long. It works in your existing fixtures and can be dimmed with your existing dimmer. Then, of course, there is the LED ‘A’ lamp. We’ve seen a steady stream of these being brought into our office over the last few years and the recent ones are actually quite good. There are a few ones now with smooth dimming (from a normal pot dimmer), OK colour rendering and warm appearance. Trouble is, I doubt many readers of this discussion can afford them at $30+ a pop. My prediction is that the cost of LED ‘A’ lamps will fall as the light output, colour rendering and general usefulness will rise - probably dramatically over the next year or two. What’s wrong with using halogens in the interim? Two other thoughts: Has the EPA or other authorities found evidence of mercury contamination from the millions of standard commercial linear fluorescent lamps that are put into land fill each year for the past half century or so? Since we lost the GLS here, most people have moved on and are worrying about other things instead. I have not heard of people stockpiling the old lamps outside of the lighting community.


Andrew Nagy, Lighting Application Technologist, Australia • Bluntly, incandescent lamps are to lighting what the horse and cart are to motoring. Howard fails to mention the mercury released into the environment by coal burning power stations. It has been well understood for many years that ~90% of the net environmental effect of lamps is caused by their power consumption during lifetime. So, the best environmental strategy is to increase efficacy, and lifetime (of course making sure the light is only on when required). Time to stop resisting (incandescent electrical pun intended) the gov’t controls.


Zachary Suchara, Director of Design, Luma Lighting Design, USA • Actually, the best environmental strategy is to stop burning coal and other fossil fuels. Get rid of the non-renewable energy generation and suddenly incandescent has a whole new life. It requires a more holistic change to the paradigm of power rather than patching a problem with polutant producing products (illiteration can be fun any time of the day). Anyway, there is a balance we must all find. Incandescent is still right for some lighting situations. CFLs are losing steam with the introduction of solid state alternatives. Andrew is correct that we should increase efficacy. It makes sense. However, pushing a technology like CFL that will be obsolete in a very short periord of time does not make sense. Even the DOE sees the light beyond CFL. Last year the DOE kicked in $10 million in research for SSL initiatives. Add that to the $28 million previously spent in the SSL arena and the $38 million in priviate match funding received over the past couple years and you have a clear indication of where the industry is marching. Keep in mind that the horse and cart was 100% biodegradeable and never started a war. Can motoring say the same thing? We need to think globally and humanistically as we make decisions that impact our vision of the future (pun intended).


Kevan Shaw, Design Director at KSLD, UK • Howard is right on this. There is no market acceptance of CFLi. LED GLS replacements are too expensive and tend not to distribute light the same way. This is the reason that legislation has been put in place! Halogen replacements are good and should be more generally available and cheaper than they are. Unfortunately neither the lamp manufacturers nor retailers want to go back to selling a high volume low price lamp. How can a CFLi and tungsten halogen lamp possibly cost the same to make? Why do they both retail at the same price in the supermarket? The problems of CFLi disposal is growing. Even Sweden, with the best recycling habits in Europe, are in difficulties with this. They have discovered that many CFLi are being dumped in glass recycling causing mercury exposure in glass recycling workers and contaminating the recycled glass. The fault is clearly with the lamp industry who are failing to spend the requisite money to ensure collection of dead lamps from consumers. This is all being done in the name of energy saving. Well where is the evidence that there has been any real world energy saving that is attributable to the lamp ban? Surely the evidence should be clearly visible by now? So come on, let’s see some real statistics that prove this legislation has had the promised effect.


Moritz Gieselmann, Cinematographer and Lighting Designer, Austria • The EU in its official papers estimates the reduction in CO2 emissions by the ban of incandescents is 0.4%. Professor Othmar Edenhofer, deputy director and chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said that the ban is senseless activism without any influence on climate change. While incandescents are banned, the sale of infrared-cabins soar, and if you look closely at some outdoor-restaurants, you will find infrared heaters on the side of CFLis. Kevan Shaw has explained it over and over: The mercury paradox does not hold up, if you have a closer look. The figures of mercury- emissions are from the five worst American coal-fired power plants. European power plants burn different coal, have a different technology and overall less emissions than used in the paradox. Officially the ban is a so called ‘win-win’ situation. In reality it’s a ‘win’ for the industry, a ‘lose’ for the environment and for the consumer.


Robert Stone, Lighting Designer, Siteco, UK • Just playing devil’s advocate... My understanding was that incandecents were nearly 100% recycleable with nearly 0% harmful materials, I assume that this is ‘not quite’ the case for CFLs. Has anyone seen the cost (either financially or environmentally) associated with recyling of incandecents versus CFLs?


Kevan Shaw • Robert, there is no route to re-cycle GLS. I agree that it is easy to recover nearly 100% of the materials for re-use however there is so little value and the fact that they are pretty innocuous in landfill means there just isn’t a case for collection and processing. CFLi are a nightmare to recycle. There is virtually nothing that can be recovered and returned as fully re-useable material. The glass is contaminated by phosphors so it can only be used for low grade re- processing such as road material and glassfibre for non optical use. The plastics are unrecoverable due to fire retardants, there is some recovery of metal from circuit boards and components. The problem is appalling recovery rates of dead lamps. It is so embarrassingly low no one will publish the actual figures! Even in Sweden they are running into problems with CFL being dumped in glass recycling, contaminating the glass and exposing the workers to mercury poisoning! Problem is CFLi ending up in landfill causing mercury contamination and leaching to ground water. Currently that is what is happening!


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